Phew, it’s been an exhausting week. I have spent a lot of time being Mrs Tabitha Twitchit, mother of three naughty kittens, at the request of my daughter who is completely obssessed with Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Roly-Poly Pudding. Her favourite part of this elaborate role play is getting the plastic shark and her rolling pin into the sandpit and covering the shark in a smoothly rolled layer of sand, just as the rats do to Tom Kitten in Potter’s story, except that they use dough instead of sand and they intend to eat Tom Kitten, whereas I have absolutely no intention of eating the sandy shark who’s standing in for Tom.
I’ve also been The Queen several times while my oldest daughter dresses herself up in an elaborate wedding gown made from old silk scarves, plastic beads, a pillowcase and even one of my husband’s ties and then glides down the aisle to marry Prince William. I don’t get to do a lot in this scenario except sit and wave (so it’s quite true to life!) and my daughter won’t let me be the bridesmaid as she can obviously see that I’m neither young nor attractive enough to play Pippa Middleton.
In between these jobs I’ve been a fairy (Amber the Orange Fairy to be exact); a train, stopping just before I run over brave Bobbie waving her red petticoats a la The Railway Children; and also an entire audience, waiting patiently for the ballerinas to emerge from the wings and ready to throw armloads of dress-up clothes masquerading as bouquets of flowers onto the stage. Occasionally, I’m a mother. Rarely, I’m a writer. But always, I’m using my imagination and watching my kids use theirs.
I’ve really started to see my daughters’ imaginations flourish over the last couple of months as we begin to read chapter books, books that have a few small black and white illustrations scattered throughout but where the main focus is on the words and the story, rather than the pictures. I can see that their minds are now making up their own pictures to accompany the story and that they don’t have to rely on an illustrator any more; they can ‘see’ the story all by themselves.
So I’ve been hauling out of the cupboard many books I’d put away for ‘later’ but it seems as if ‘later’ has arrived much sonner than I’d expected. At the moment, we’re about halfway through Enid Blyton’s Mr Meddle’s Mischief and I’m dreading one of the girls suggesting we play Mr Meddle because he is a very unattractive man with an extremely long nose and I know exactly who’ll get cast in that role. Unless of course I can convince them that the plastic shark is due for a promotion and is ready to take on a role more challenging than being made into a kitten pudding.